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Beer Reviews

Sir William’s Extra Special Bitter

Dragonmead Microbrewery
Warren, MI

Style: ESB
ABV: 4.8%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

Pair With:
For such a small country, and for a population with such awful cuisine—and teeth—England has an amazingly rich beer history. One such beer style that emerged from this colorful backstory is the ESB, or extra special bitter. What does that name mean, exactly? Well, more bitter than the brewer's mild, and bitter, and best bitter, but not quite as bitter as their pale ale. Which means, it's pretty damn subjective, and ultimately up to the brewer to decide. Of course the American Brewers Association has over-detailed explanations for every one of those styles, but, to me, if some hop freak wants to call their extremely bitter pale ale a mild, I'm not going to yip, at least not too loudly.

But Dragonmead plays it straight with their Sir William's ESB. It pours an attractive reddish-tinged gold with a surprisingly robust head, one that is almost stout-like in thickness, and not quite white. Although remnants of the head stick around the top of the brew through the entire session, it doesn't form any lacing on the side of the glass.

Sir William's nose is malty breadiness mixed with some earthy hop aromas. Deep sniffs detect some slight tinniness—or maybe that's esters—in the background.

The sip starts with a quick strike of semi-dry, biscuit-like malt. Earthy, extremely mellow hop bitterness washes away any initial sweetness, but the finish gives way to some slight fruitiness emblematic of authentic English ales.

Sir William's is a dead-on take on the style, which makes it an ideal session brew, what with it's low ABV, muted flavors, and relatively easy-going body. Other than falling solidly within style guidelines (which, admittedly, are wide enough for a monkey to ride an elephant through), Dragonmead's ESB isn't all that noteworthy. Then again, ESBs rarely strive for anything other than what they are. For true authenticity, let this one warm to damn near room temperature, don't brush your teeth, and refer to friends as "Jeeves" or "Angus" and everyone else as "wankers." Believe me, it'll taste that much better.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on October 21, 2008.
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